Category Archives: Chicago Reader

1000 Words: Regrets?

[Right off the bat, there’s a damnable lie in that headline. This meandering post runs to a hefty 2290 words. So sue me.]

It’s one hell of a lot easier said than done. Not having regrets, that is. The older I get, the more I realize simply surviving this ordeal called life is quite an accomplishment. I mean, doing so without jumping off the roof of a tall building or taking hostages or numbing out with whatever substance catches your fancy.

I’ve had a success or two. Not as many, of course, as I’d imagined I would have back when I was, say, 20 y.o. I’ve had about 7300 disappointments, too. Far, far, far more than I’d imagined I would ever have.

That makes me average.

Do people like Elon Musk or Hillary Clinton look at their own lives in a similar vein? Nah, probably not. In any case, I never aspired to be a success like those two. I didn’t want money (well, not that kind of money). I didn’t want power. I just wanted to be hailed far and wide as a talented, imaginative, creative, innovative, jaw-droppingly funny and interesting artist. That’s all.

From childhood on into my 20s, I could have taken any one of four paths — or even a combination of them. I started out as a kid, 10 or 11, drawing pictures constantly. Airplanes and Apollo rockets and hockey players and constellations and the planet Saturn and the John Hancock Center in Chicago and faces of people I knew and those I’d simply conjured in my head and any and every single thing that caught my eye and looked easy enough to depict in pencil. Then, at about 12 years old, I started writing stories. I wrote about my playmates and teachers and school janitors, turning them into fantasy characters, either forces for good or evil, depending on how much I liked or abhorred them.

One day, the teacher who was in charge of the Lovett Lantern, a little, occasionally-published, mimeographed collection of essays and poems and the like by kids in my grade school, asked us seventh-graders to write articles on How We Would Change the World. Man, I spent some time on that thing. To my great surprise, the teacher selected my piece along with those of about six other kids. Their pieces basically were 100 words long and called for everybody to get along and treat each other nicely. Mine ran several thousand words and delineated a passel of proposed United Nations organizations, combining the resources of the wealthy western nations and focusing on lifting all the underdeveloped nations out of poverty and starvation, and helping warring nations reach peaceful understandings and…, and…, well, I went on and on, as is my wont to this day.

Then, in my freshman year of high school, I went to work in radio, hosting a weekly program on WOPA-AM (now WPNA) in Oak Park, Illinois called Oak Park Schools at Work. I loved radio. I lived for radio. The greatest Christmas gift I ever got was my first transistor radio in 1964. Subsequently, I went to sleep every night, the transistor hidden under the covers, listening to Paul Revere and the Raiders and the Turtles and Aretha Franklin until I drifted off to sleep. More often than not, I’d wake up the next morning with the earplug still firmly in place and the WLS morning news jarring me awake with news about a riot in Watts or some bloody business in a place called Viet Nam.

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A fellow named Wayne Osborne was the general manager of WOPA. One day, my co-host and I suffered a case of the giggles as we broadcast live. After we went off the air, Osborn, who wore penny loafers and argyle vests, tore us both new ones. “Goddamn it,” he bellowed, “you acted like stupid kids in there! Don’t you ever do that again! If something’s funny, you let the listeners know what it is — you don’t just sit there tittering like a couple of chimpanzees.” It was the first time someone ever told me I wasn’t expected to be a dumb kid anymore. I never forgot Wayne Osborne for that.

By the way, I also met Terri Hemmert at the radio station. She was a T-shirt and overalls-clad station receptionist and late night DJ for our FM sister station, WGLD. Those call letters would soon be changed to WXRT and Hemmert would become a long-time afternoon DJ for it, the first female drive-time host in Chicago radio history. She would eventually carve out a reputation as a renowned authority on the Beatles. At 14 I thought, Jeez, she looks, acts, and dresses just like a guy. She’s pretty cool. I’d learn later she was a lesbian. I though that was cool, too.

When I hit my late 20s, for some odd reason I decided to take a comedy improvisation course with what was then known as the ImprovOlympic. Soon thereafter, the International Olympic Committee got all bent out of shape and sent the proprietors, Charna Halpern and Del Close, a strongly-worded cease-and-desist letter. I dunno who’s more protective of their brand, the IOC or the Disney people. For chrissakes, it wasn’t as if people would come to CrossCurrents, the ImprovOlympic headquarters on the Near North Side, expecting to see Mary Lou Retton or Mark Spitz. Rather, they’d catch the likes of Mike Myers, Jeff Garlin, Chris Farley, Joel Murray, or Stephen Colbert well before they became famous. Halpern and Close changed the outfit’s name to iO and would earn an international rep as the incubator of countless comedy, television, and movie stars.

Charna Hapern (L) & Del Close.

I hooked up with a gang that was doing a live improv soap opera called “Doctor’s Hospital” at a saloon with a stage across the street from the iconic Medusa’s dance bar on Sheffield Avenue in 1986. Del himself came in one day to catch our show and everybody was all atwitter. Which of us, my stage mates asked each other before that night’s show, would the great improvisation master innovator tab for stardom?

Me? I didn’t care whom he blessed with his imprimatur. I’d already decided I’d make my way (or not) as a writer. I’d been churning out articles for the Chicago Reader, one of the nation’s leading alternative newsweeklies, since 1983. I was a writer, dammit, and a writer I’d continue to be even though I often — too often — had to come up with some lame excuse for why my rent was late.

And, by the way, my first professional article was on pro-wrestling. Somehow, I’d become hip to TV wrestling back in 1983. Then I heard about the Battle Royal coming to the Horizon arena in suburban Rosemont. I talked my way into a press pass and showed up for the event, the precursor to WrestleMania, featuring every big name in the game. I was shocked to find a completely sold-out arena, the fans screaming and shrieking as if their very spawn were being thrown against the ropes or having a folding chair bashed over their heads. After the match, I went to the Air Host Motel on Mannheim Road, a cheap joint near O’Hare Airport where the wrestlers slept before their flights out of town the next day. Most of them gathered in the dinky motel lounge and I interviewed a few of them as well as the ring announcers. I caught a glimpse of someone I was told was the rising star of wrestling, a fellow named Hulk Hogan. With his bronze skin and flowing blonde hair, he looked like a Norse god passing through the lounge. I caught up to him on the stairway to the second floor. “Mr. Hogan,” I called out, “do you have a minute?” He spun around at the top of the stairs, burned a hole through me with his eyes, and puffed out his chest like somebody playing Hercules in an old Italian sword-and-sandal flick. I stopped dead in my tracks. I had no idea what to say or do, so I simply stood there staring. Hogan then turned around and proceeded, I assume, to a well-earned sleep in his room. He had, after all, emerged victorious over the likes of the Iron Sheik, Andre the Giant, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, King Kong Bundy, and Rowdy Roddy Piper. No matter, I had plenty of material and the next thing I knew, I’d earned my first paycheck writing. I was hooked.

Hulk Hogan (R) & The Iron Sheik.

So, my four potential paths were drawing, radio, writing, and acting.

At the time I dabbled in improv, I thought I would be screwing myself up if I split my focus between that and my writing. So I went all the way with writing and let the comedy bit die on the vine.

This despite the fact that after the aforementioned night’s performance of “Doctor’s Hospital,” Del Close, one of the the geniuses behind the Compass Players, the “Mad Scientist” of The Committee, director at Second City, who hung out with the Merry Pranksters, who rubbed shoulders with Mike Nichols and Elaine May and Belushi and Aykroyd and Bill Murray and Gilda Radner, had been an acting coach for Saturday Night Live, and whose album “How to Speak Hip,” was a 1960s comedy landmark, had tabbed me — me! — as the one among the cast who had the stuff, the goods, the presence. He wanted me to take his advanced course at ImprovOlympic (sorry, IOC, that was its name — you can’t erase history).

Dig: Bob Odenkirk’s new book, Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama: A Memoir, features a passage on the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul star’s first encounter with Close. Odenkirk was a 20 year-old student with his college newspaper’s press pass at the time and ran into Close at a bookstore in Chicago’s hippie/freak haven, Old Town. By chance Del Close walked into the bookstore while Odenkirk browsed through the Theatre section. Here’s how Odenkirk describes the scene:

[I]nto the store ambled a jabbering mound of clothing with a human being inside. He appeared to be some kind of down-on-his-luck wizard, muttering incantations. And, actually, I would find out, the man was a witch, and he would change the course of my thinking and even my life on that very day.

A witch, ladies and gentlemen. He called himself that with pride!

The woman behind the counter called him Del. “No, Del, that book isn’t in yet.” “Yes, Del, you can use the washroom, but please try to hit the inside of the toilet.” I don’t remember exactly what she said to him, but she kept saying “Del.” Del . . . where did I know that name from? I’d seen it before, maybe twice. In the program for a Second City revue that I’d attended when I was fourteen, six years earlier. Or possibly as one of the final credits on the long scroll at the end of “Saturday Night Live,” where Del Close had briefly worked as an “acting coach.” I did not know what Del Close looked like, and I certainly didn’t know his legendary status as a guru of sketch-comedy performers, because that hadn’t happened yet.

Still, I stepped up to this unkempt, some might say seedy-looking, stranger and said, “Are you Del Close?”

“Yes.”

“Can I interview you?” I asked, waving my tape recorder in the air to show I meant business.

“Well, I just quit Second City, again, yesterday, and I just quit cocaine and heroin and ‘Saturday Night Live,’ too, so, fortuitous timing, this is a good moment to look backward, and forward, and… inward.” Then he laughed, which turned into a cough. He was always saying clever things portentously, and coughing. Del was at a juncture and I was, too, and so our junctures junctured.

Our next stop was a bar where Del ordered a Bloody Mary—a blast of nutrition after what he’d been putting in his body the past few years. Then we walked back up the wind tunnel of Wells Street and down an alley to his penurious digs, a smoke-stained one-bedroom, cluttered on the verge of hoarder-level. He talked the whole time. I listened, happily.

The man who made careers, who’d taken one look at John Belushi and knew he’d become a superstar, took a look at me and, if not predicting superstardom, at least presumably said This guy’ll do.

And I just shrugged my shoulders. I followed up, sort of, and took Del’s advanced course for a while. But I had stories to write: There was the profile of Bill Wildt, host of the cable show “Motorsports Unlimited,” featuring scantily clad models wearing towering feathered headdresses lovingly caressing Corvettes or souped-up Ford Falcons, a story on Rob Sherman, the litigious spokesperson for Illinois Atheists, and countless others, the publications of which allowed me to pay the rent on time. Occasionally.

Well, we have to make choices in our lives. Writing for alternative newsweeklies and magazines and newspapers, the freelancer’s life, became unsustainable as the internet slowly but surely killed print. Now everybody can, and does, write. No need to pay them for it, since there’ll always be someone else who wants to do it for free.

I like to joke the reason I chose writing over acting was I preferred to hang out with writers rather than actors. Which was — and is — true. I trust writers more.

Still, writing no longer is a viable career choice. Comedy acting? Dan Aykroyd, I’ve read, is worth some $135 million today, Bill Murray, $120 million. I’m not saying I’d be anywhere near as successful and wealthy as those two. I’d have settled for 1/1000th their financial success — I’d have been able to pay my rent on time every month.

Ditching improv would be the single life decision I’d most regret. That is, if I were prone to regretting and, hell, the whole point of this post is to stress that regret is a waste of time.

Every now and again, I must admit, I do waste time.

The Pencil Today:

HotAirLogoFinal Saturday

THE QUOTE

“The beginning is always today.” — Mary Wollstonecraft

Wollstonecraft

A TEABAG BY ANY OTHER NAME

Check out Mobutu Sese Seko’s take on all the premature obituaries for the Tea Party in yesterday afternoon’s Gawker.

The Tea/Me-ers aren’t going anywhere, Seko insists, because they’ve always been here — only under different monikers and flags.

And BTW, this Seko is not that Seko. That one is dead. Glad to clear that up for you.

Seko

That Mobutu Sese Seko

Anyway, Seko quotes extensively from Richard Hofstadter (no, not that Hofstadter, this Hofstadter), whose landmark article in the November, 1964 issue of Harper’s Magazine essentially defined the right-wing-nut movement then and for all time. The article, entitled “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” may well have served as a blueprint for the Tea/Me-ers.

Hofstadter

That Hofstadter

It begins, “American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”

Hofstadter goes on to list and define all the conspiracy theorists, psychotics, true believers, anti-Papists, Gold-Standard-ists, Masons, Illuminists, Birchers, and others who, today, might find a comfortable nest within the Big Tent GOP.

Funny how those moderate Republicans who two decades ago put out the call for the party to become a Big Tent might react had they known it would be one equipped with padded walls.

The Tea Party, according to Seko, sells doom — and in this holy land, doom has always sold well. “These guys,” he writes of the Tea Party, “can sell an apocalypse of anything.”

Once you’re finished with Seko’s take, wait a couple of days for Rick Perlstein’s Monday debut offering on his own The Nation blog. He says pretty much the same thing.

(And, believe me, I feel for Perlstein: There’s nothing worse for a writer than for another writer to beat you to a topic or a bon mot or a brilliant conclusion.)

THE KING OF AMERICA

Here’s more required reading for you. Bill Wyman writes in last week’s New Yorker about Michael Jackson’s life and his place as the ultimate crossover pop artist. Jackson, Wyman writes, virtually became America.

No, not that Bill Wyman, this Bill Wyman.

Wyman

That Wyman

Anyway, doesn’t it seem as though we’ve pretty much forgotten Michael Jackson since all the folderol over his death petered out?

Lost in all the oceans of ink and streams of electrons devoted to the King of Pop’s reputed sex life is the fact that Jackson achieved what hundreds — nay, thousands — of black pop and genre musical acts strove for since the mid-1950’s. That is, pure, total, and unadulterated acceptance by white America.

Wyman deftly weaves Jackson’s physical metamorphosis in with his ongoing assimilation into the mainstream. He became white at the same time he was becoming white.

Wyman also apparently buys into the notion that Jackson died a virgin. That is, he not only never had government- and religion-approved sex with a woman, but he never actually had sex with all those little boys. Nevertheless, his non-orgasmic peccadilloes with pre-adolescents were unforgivable — or so goes that train of thought.

In any case, read the piece.

WYMAN TALES

A little anecdote about this Bill Wyman — and then a little anecdote about that Bill Wyman or, more accurately, his band, to follow.

This Bill Wyman was the music critic for the Chicago Reader for much of the time I was writing for that one-time indispensable alternative weekly. In the late 1980s, a pretty and talented woman named Alison True was in the process of climbing the ladder at the Reader, an ascent that eventually saw her become editor, a position she held for nearly 20 years.

True

Alison True

Alison True had blue eyes, dimples, light brown hair, and was tough as nails. Trust me, I once overheard her set some boundaries, fortissimo, for a recalcitrant immediate underling in what they thought was the privacy of the fire stairs at the Reader’s North Loop headquarters. “This is my paper,” she roared, “and we’ll do it my way!” A few moments later, she passed me on the way back to her office and flashed me a dimpled smile hello. You have to love a boss like that.

From 1983 through 2002, I was part of the sizable stable of Reader freelancers. Occasionally, we’d get together for a mixer or at a party thrown by some common acquaintance. At each of these, we’d ask each other if Alison True was going out with anybody, as if she’d deign to mix with the likes of us. No one could ever offer indisputable confirmation of her availability.

Then one Saturday night at a party thrown by jazz maven Neil Tesser, we freelancers watched, agape, as she entered, hand in hand, with Bill Wyman. Trust me again, Wyman rarely let go of her hand throughout that night. None of us blamed him. All of us loathed him from that point on.

Now, then, the other Bill Wyman. My old pal Eric Woulkewicz, as unique an individual as can be imagined happened to be walking down Milwaukee Avenue one late summer morning.

Just to give you a picture of the man that was Eric Woulkewicz, he once went for an entire several-year stretch with nothing in his wardrobe but second-hand jumpsuits and Aqua-Sox. Also, at this time, he lived in an old dentist’s office on the Near West Side, complete with reclining chair and spit fountain. A true friend, he offered me sleeping accommodations in the dentist’s chair one time when I needed new digs in a hurry.

He once concocted an idea that he was certain would keep him rolling in dough for the rest of his life. He owned two junky vehicles, a sedan and a Plymouth minivan. Making sure neither ran out of gas was, at times, his primary occupation. He planned to equip the sedan with a camouflaged pinhole camera and have it trail the van on a drive through Skokie, at the time a suburb notorious for its police officers stopping cars driven by black men for no good reason other than their color. He would drive the sedan and his friend named Mustafa, a large black man with waist-length dreadlocks, would pilot the van. Eric was banking on the Skokie cops pulling Mustafa over for no reason. Then, Eric would present village officials with photos of the stop and demand a cahs settlement, which he and Mustafa would split.

Eric even had a name for the camera-equipped van — the Freedom-mobile. Sadly, the scheme never got off the ground.

So, on the late summer morning in question, Eric was walking down Milwaukee Avenue and just as he was passing the Double Door, a hip live music venue near the North/Milwaukee/Damen intersection, he saw someone taping a handwritten sign up in the window. It read, “Rolling Stones tickets on sale at noon. $7.”

Double Door

The Double Door, Chicago

Eric asked the guy what it was all about and was told the Stones were to kick off their 1997-98 worldwide tour in Chicago with an impromptu gig at the 475-capacity venue, just a lark on the part of the mega-band. Eric figured, hell, even if it’s all a scam, tickets are only seven bucks apiece. So he decided to wait until noon when he was the first person in line to buy two. The line, by that time, stretched around the block.

Oh, it was the real thing. Eric proceeded to sell his pair of tickets for $1000, a 14,2oo-percent return on his investment.

The wise financial strategem allowed my pal Eric Woulkewicz to keep the gas tanks of his junky sedan and Plymouth van filled for months.

UPDATE ON THE CHIEF

Looks like Chief Keef isn’t gracing the streets of upscale Northbrook, Illinois after all. At least not as a citizen thereof.

Chicagoans held their collective breath as news trickled out earlier this week that the under-aged hip hop star had purchased a home in Northbrook.

I, of course, added to the hysteria with my own smart-assed take on the relo.

Now, a Cook County Juvenile Court judge has ruled there is no credible evidence CK has taken up residence in the heretofore white haven from the dark inner city. A move by Chief Keef would have amounted to a violation of his parole for the crime of being way too hip hop.

From Spin Magazine

Northbrook No More

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Loving Chicago is like loving a woman with a broken nose.” — Nelson Algren

BLOOMINGTON WARMING

Get over to Rachael’s Cafe tonight a 6:30 for another session of Bloomington’s Science Cafe.

Host Alex Straiker will introduce environmental physicist Ben Brabson. The topic: “Climate Change and Bloomington.”

Why?

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE

My guy in Monroe County government says the newly refurbished digs in the old courthouse are fabulous.

He says the place actually smells new.

The Monroe County Courthouse, in case you missed it, has been closed since spring 2011 for a massive renovation. Workers replaced utility pipes, restrooms, carpeting, and much else. They painted the walls and installed a high-efficiency heating and cooling system. Sometime in the middle of the project, it was found that the 100-year-old main floor was in danger of collapsing. So the cost of a whole new floor had to be added on the the original $4 million pricetag. The Courthouse reopened yesterday.

I asked my guy if he jumped on the new floor to test it. Laughing, he says he just might organize his co-workers to gather in a spot and all jump simultaneously.

READY…, JUMP!

Which reminds me of that old trivia chestnut, What if all the people in China jumped at once?

Would we feel the bounce here on the other side of the Earth? Would the planet’s orbit be affected?

Boi-oi-oi-oi-oing!

My old colleague at the Chicago Reader, Cecil Adams, known far and wide for his spectacular knowledge of useless information, was asked this very question as far back as 1984.

China’s population at the time stood at a tad more than a billion (it’s up to 1.34B now). So Adams, who penned the Reader’s Straight Dope trivia column, imagined all the women, men, and snotty kids in China climbing up on chairs and leaping off at precisely the same moment. Then Cecil did some back of the envelope ciphering.

He concluded that the impact of those two billion feet on the surface of the world at once (give or take the few tens of millions of feet that had been amputated during wars and torture sessions) would produce an impact equivalent to that of the explosion of 500 tons of TNT.

Sheesh, I would have thought such an impact would result in more of a bump. Anyway, 500 tons of boom is not nearly enough to jar the planet off its year-long path.

So there.

Anyway, you ought to check out Cecil’s The Straight Dope column. You can learn, for instance, what Reichs 1 and 2 were (you know, the ones preceding Hitler’s Third Reich.)

OBAMA IS A POOR EXCUSE FOR A KING

This pic is making the rounds on the interwebs these days:

You know, because when we elected Obama King of the United States with absolute powers over everything, including the very prices of all consumer goods and services, we expected him to forbid this sort of thing from happening.

NOT FAT, NOT WHITE, DOESN’T SMOKE CIGARS

And speaking of the man who will hold on to the White House on November 6th, one of the Right’s biggest canards against him is that he’s a “typical Chicago politician.”

As in a fat, cigar-chomping, back-room-deal-making, vote-stealing, bribe-taking, in-bed-with-the-Mob, white man.

Historian Rick Perlstein points out in an essay in Chicago mag that the GOP strategy has been to link Obama with all those famous venal Windy City pols of the past. Notoriously corrupt Alderman Hinky Dink Kenna once famously observed, “Chicago ain’t ready for reform.”

In truth, Obama has nothing at all in common with the likes of Jake Arvey, Richard J. Daley, Fast Eddie Vrdolyak, Bathhouse John  Coughlin, and Big Bill Thompson.

Perlstein writes: “Indeed, the president’s biggest problem, come the election on November 6, isn’t that he’s too Chicago. It’s that he’s not Chicago enough.”

He wrote the piece before the first debate last week, which only proves Perlstein’s point. I mean, honestly, would a tough-guy Chicago pol have let Mitt Romney get away with all that murder?

Rick Perlstein

When all is said and done, Obama represents the most impotent of the stereotypical liberal politician’s characteristics. He believes if he’s a mensch, everybody’s going to embrace him. Perlstein writes: “Obama seems to think that if he shows himself to be a trustworthy steward of the public purse, Republicans will respect him and the voting public will be grateful.”

Liberals long have believed that if you could just reach Ma & Pa America with the unassailable logic of your argument, they’ll happily become liberals too. Or, as Matt Taibbi once opined, only liberals would think that by watching a documentary you can change the world.

Here I am, opening myself up to the charge of being cynical again, but I can’t help it — what I’m about to say is demonstrably true. People, by and large, are stupid. Not only that, they’re happy to be stupid. They want to be stupid.

In the words of a long-ago National Lampoon writer, Don’t you think? Or don’t you?

The only events listings you need in Bloomington.

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Brought to you by The Electron Pencil: Bloomington Arts, Culture, Politics, and Hot Air. Daily.

STUDIO TOUR ◗ Brown County, various locationsThe Backroads of Brown County Studio Tour, free, self-guided tour of 16 local artists’ & craftspersons’ studios; 10am-5pm, through October

CLASS ◗ Ivy Tech-Bloomington, Lamkin HallSolving the Credit Mystery: Credit Counseling Expert Panel, Fincaila experts from Fifth Third Bank, IU Credit Union, & Regions Bank; Noon-1pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Auer HallDoctoral Recital: Stephen Price on organ; 5pm

FILM ◗ IU Swain Hall East — “Un Cuento Chino,” (Argentina, 2011); 6pm

LECTURE ◗ Rachael’s CafeScience Cafe Bloomington, “Climate Change & Bloomington,” Presented by environmental physicist Ben Brabson; 6:30pm

CLASS ◗ Monroe County Public LibraryLights, Camera, Write: An Introduction to the Art of Screenwriting; 6:30pm

MUSIC ◗ Muddy Boots Cafe, NashvilleDon Ford; 7-9pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Ford-Crawford HallStudent Recital: Janelle Davis on viola de gamba; 7pm

CLASS ◗ IU Lilly LibraryWe”re Off to See the Wizard!: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; part of the IU LIfelong Learning Series; 7pm

PERFORMANCE ◗ Unity of Bloomington ChurchAuditions & rehearsal, Bloomington Peace Choir; 7pm

STAGE ◗ Brown County Playhouse, Nashville — “Last Train to Nibroc“; 7:30pm

MUSIC ◗ Max’s PlaceOpen mic; 7:30pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Auer HallChamber Orchestra, Uriel Segal, conductor; 8pm

ASTRONOMY ◗ IU Kirkwood ObservatoryOpen house, Public viewing through the main telescope; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ Bear’s PlaceAnimal Parts, Shell, Moor Hound; 8pm

DANCING ◗ Harmony SchoolContra dancing; 8-10:30pm

GAMES ◗ The Root Cellar at Farm BloomingtonTeam trivia; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ The BluebirdWolfgang Gartner; 9pm

MUSIC ◗ The BishopLost in the Trees, Midtown Dickens; 9:30pm

ONGOING:

ART ◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • “New Acquisitions,” David Hockney; through October 21st
  • Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists; through October 14th
  • “Paragons of Filial Piety,” by Utagawa Kuniyoshi; through December 31st
  • “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers,” by Julia Margaret, Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan; through December 31st
  • French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century;” through December 31st
  • Celebration of Cuban Art & Film: Pop-art by Joe Tilson; through December 31st
  • Workers of the World, Unite!” through December 31st
  • Embracing Nature,” by Barry Gealt; through December 23rd
  • Pioneers & Exiles: German Expressionism,” through December 23rd

ART ◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • Ab-Fab — Extreme Quilting,” by Sandy Hill; October 5th through October 27th
  • Street View — Bloomington Scenes,” by Tom Rhea; October 5th through October 27th
  • From the Heartwoods,” by James Alexander Thom; October 5th through October 27th
  • The Spaces in Between,” by Ellen Starr Lyon; October 5th through October 27th

ART ◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibit:

  • “Samenwerken,” Interdisciplinary collaborative multi-media works; through October 11th

ART ◗ IU Kinsey Institute GalleryExhibits opening September 28th:

  • A Place Aside: Artists and Their Partners;” through December 20th
  • Gender Expressions;” through December 20th

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibit:

  • “CUBAmistad” photos

ART ◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibits:

  • “¡Cuba Si! Posters from the Revolution: 1960s and 1970s”
  • “From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web: The Origins of Everything”
  • “Thoughts, Things, and Theories… What Is Culture?”
  • “Picturing Archaeology”
  • “Personal Accents: Accessories from Around the World”
  • “Blended Harmonies: Music and Religion in Nepal”
  • “The Day in Its Color: A Hoosier Photographer’s Journey through Mid-century America”
  • “TOYing with Ideas”
  • “Living Heritage: Performing Arts of Southeast Asia”
  • “On a Wing and a Prayer”

BOOKS ◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit:

  • Outsiders and Others:Arkham House, Weird Fiction, and the Legacy of HP Lovecraft;” through November 1st
  • A World of Puzzles,” selections form the Slocum Puzzle Collection

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ Soup’s OnExhibit:

  • Celebration of Cuban Art & Culture: “CUBAmistad photos; through October

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ Monroe County History CenterExhibit:

  • Bloomington: Then and Now,” presented by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

ARTIFACTS ◗ Monroe County History CenterExhibit:

  • “Doctors and Dentists: A Look into the Monroe County Medical professions

The Electron Pencil. Go there. Read. Like. Share.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“I believe that as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil.” — Robert F. Kennedy

THE LIVES WE LEAD IN A LIFETIME

Bobby Kennedy was shot in the head 44 years ago tomorrow. He lingered, unconscious, for a day, then died.

At the time of his death, Bobby Kennedy was a caring, dedicated, sensitive man.

But for much of his adult life, he’d been a jerk. He’d been ruthless, clannish, a moralizer, pathologically ambitious — the list can go on.

Tragedy changed Bobby Kennedy. The death of his brother catapulted him into deep depression. He had, for lack of a more scientifically accurate term, a nervous breakdown. He emerged on the other side of it a different human being.

Kennedy was  Roman Catholic. For all the Church’s sins — and there are many — one praiseworthy aspect of it is its insistence that there is redemption.

I’ve experienced redemption once or twice. Maybe even three times. So, I would assume, have you.

No, not religious redemption. Human redemption. For lack of a more scientifically accurate term.

THE PENCIL’S DAILY EVENTS LISTINGS

Click. And GO!

ANYBODY WHO DISAGREES WITH ME IS MENTALLY ILL

A movie reviewer from my old haunt, the Chicago Reader, has panned “The Avengers” in his capsule review.

Naturally, he’s been flooded with emails and other communiques calling into question his sanity and accusing him of possessing the foulest character. After all, this is the United States of America wherein everybody’s opinion on a movie is of paramount import.

The “calling into question his sanity” part elicited a revelation from reviewer Ben Sachs, though.

Ben Sachs

Sachs told the reading public that indeed his brain wiring is screwy — he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2004. No one outside his circle of friends and family knew about his problem until he was goaded into this public confessional by a commenter named Morganthus who called him “emotionally imbalanced,” an assessment based only on Sachs’ dislike of “The Avengers.”

“How did Morganthus know?” Sachs wrote.

Wow.

A Typical Movie Reviewer In His Office At The Mental Institution

In fact, Sachs even explored the role his mental illness plays in his judgement as an arts arbiter. “I liked the movies, literature, and music that I did because they gave form to emotions I couldn’t organize in real life,” he wrote. He wondered if Morganthus somehow sensed this.

That’s a very charitable attitude on the part of Sachs. I can’t imagine that someone who gets so riled up about a movie review that he’ll write in a comment questioning the reviewer’s psychological stability is actually a perceptive soul hoping to help.

Nevertheless, this Morganthus fellow’s rant resulted in Sachs’ fascinating bit of introspection. Read the entire piece; it’s not terribly long.

[h/t to Roger Ebert for pointing out Sachs’ piece on Facebook.]

FAIR IS FOUL AND FOUL FAIR

Wisconsin voters go to the polls tomorrow. Gov. Scott Walker’s future is in their hands. Will they fire him? The outcome is even money right now.

I don’t know what I like less — Scott Walker or recall elections.

For all Walker’s sins — and there are many — he broke no laws. He was elected fair and square by Wisconsinites. Now, suddenly, he can be removed from office just because he pushed through legislation and made executive decisions a lot of people didn’t care for?

Folks, that’s democracy. The concept does not imply that once we elect a guy or gal we get everything we want. Isn’t that rather childish?

Now, if I lived in Wisconsin, I’d stand on my head to help defeat Walker in the next regular election.

This whole hoo-hah reminds me of two things. One is professional quacker Rush Limbaugh crying like a schoolchild after Barack Obama’s election in 2008. “What about the other 46 percent?” he bleated.

The simple answer to his simplistic question was: They’re out of luck until they become 50 percent-plus-one. Rules of the game, baby.

The other thing I thought of was the startling number of my liberal friends who swore they’d move to another country if George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004. A former co-worker who’d moved to Rochester, New York, said it to me one afternoon and I challenged her. “Is that just hyperbole,” I asked. “or do you really mean it?”

“I really mean it,” she said. Rochester is just across Lake Ontario from Canada, she explained, so it wouldn’t be that big a deal. She neglected to mention if the Canadian government had pledged to honor all her wishes after her move.

Dems Flee The US After George W. Bush’s Reelection

I cared for George W. Bush even less than I care for Scott Walker. Bush will go down, I’m certain, as one of our worst presidents.

His two elections saddened and discouraged me. I could only wonder why a modern nation of some 300M people could select as their leader such a chucklehead. Not that I’d be dancing in the streets had either Al Gore or John Kerry won but, the way I look at it, a stubbed toe is better than being kicked in the gut repeatedly.

Anyway, Bush hooked and crooked his way into the White House the first time he ran and then played the war card to win a second time. But he was still my president because I’m a participating member of the American electorate.

Not That I Was Thrilled About It

Say what you will about the late John Wayne, when asked his reaction to the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960, he said, “I didn’t vote for him but he’s my president.”

Sounds a tad more adult than today’s blatherings, no?

Anyway, rules of the game, right? As long as recall elections are within the rules, I hope Walker gets his ass beat.

BALL OF CONFUSION

Vote for me and I’ll set ya free!

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves.” — Mary Wollstonecraft

SELF-DEFENSE

There is only one Tyler Ferguson on this Earth — which either is or isn’t a boon for the planet.

Tyler (AKA The Bleeding Heartland Rollergirls‘ Kaka Caliente)

She is Bloomington’s own, though, and she graced the Boys of Soma with her presence this morning. She was wrapping her fluid-swollen right knee as the rest of us were ingesting our first doses of the precious eye-opening substance.

Tough Guy Mac asked her how she injured her knee. Those in the know are aware it could have happened during a roller derby match, a soccer game, from running or spinning or bicycling, or any of the countless physical activities she’s addicted to.

Tyler And Her Late, Lamented Wheels

Now, when you ask Tyler a question, you’re really asking for a lecture that includes a minimum of a half dozen tangents. It reminds me of the old line: ask her what time it is and she’ll tell you how a watch is made.

Anyway, she explicated a history of the hinge’s traumas and insults until finally, someone (oh, alright, me) suggested she may have kneed an unfortunate soul who’d tried to force his attentions on her and if you think her patella looks bad, you oughtta see various parts of his shattered body.

Which automatically reminded Tyler of a story. Aw, hell, lemme let her tell it:

“Oh my god! (many Tyler stories begin with oh my god!) I took a self-defense course, five years ago, I think.

“They taught us this move, it’s called the buck and roll. It’s for when some guy’s trying to molest you and he’s on top of you, y’know?

“You grab the guy by the lapels, pull him real close, raise your hips for leverage, okay? It’s a last resort type of thing.

“Then, you use your leverage and flip him. It’s very effective for a smaller person who has a larger person, y’know, like a rapist, on top of them.

“I couldn’t wait ’till I got home, I wanted to show Fergie (her husband). So I get home and I say, ‘Dave. Lemme show you this move I just learned. It’s great!’

“And he goes, ‘Uh uh. No way.’

“And I say, ‘Aw, c’mon! How can it hurt. Look, lay on top of me like you wanna rape me, okay? Don’t worry.’

“So he gets on top of me, I pull him by the lapels, buck my hips up into him, and give him the flip.

“Oh my god, this is true! He must have flown ten feet in the air. Honestly, he was airborne.

“He hit a dresser and he got this enormous bruise on his hip (here, she stands and shows us with her hands the extent of the bruise — it spanned from his waist to halfway down his thigh.) And then all the blood drained down to his foot and he couldn’t walk.

“Poor Punky! He wouldn’t let me touch him for, oh, I don’t know how long.”

To prove Tyler Ferguson isn’t the only one around here who can spin a yarn, her story reminds me of the time I did a big story for the Chicago Reader about the first women boxers in the nation to compete in the Golden Gloves tournament.

One of the boxers, a DePaul University senior named Tracy Desmond, had studied karate before taking up boxing. One night, late, she was walking home in her Little Italy neighborhood when a man who’d been following her yanked her into a gangway.

He picked the wrong chick to mess with. Tracy fought him off, generously bestowing a number of bruises upon his person, and dashed away, seeking refuge in a neighbor’s home.

Tracy Desmond Clocks A Golden Gloves Opponent

When I first heard Tracy’s story it immediately hit me: why don’t we teach young girls self-defense beginning in their earliest years in elementary school?

I don’t have kids (the world should thank me for that) but I can imagine the horror of learning my daughter had been injured or worse by one of the cousins of pan troglodytes who prowl the streets.

Teaching girls from the earliest age the effectiveness of popping a predator in his nose, throat, or junk seems to me the least we can do for them.

Or is it that we really want the females of our holy land to remain helpless?

Teach Your Daughters

IF YOU TELL IT, THEY WILL LISTEN

Laura Grover can hold her own with any raconteur. The boss of WFHB’s Bloomington Storytelling Project also showed up this morning at Soma. She’d scheduled a meeting with a person who wanted to record a story for the BSP‘s big February event — its 29 Stories in 29 Days storytelling drive.

Grover

“If you email us and make a pledge to tell your story any time this month at any location you want, we’ll record you and put your story on the air,” Grover explained. “The first 29 people to do it will get a free mug and an Acoustic Harvest CD. Everybody who participates will get a chance to win prizes from local businesses.”

Those who want to share their stories with the world (or at least Bloomington’s corner of it) can contract Laura Grover at storytelling@wfhb.org.

GLORIA

Strong woman, strong music. Pound for pound, Patti Smith is tougher than any heavyweight boxer.

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